James Davies has spoken in depth for the first time about the ‘horrible’ time he went through with the concussion before leaving rugby, admitting: “It was scary, it really showed my vulnerability.”
The Scarlets fan favorite and Welsh open side has called an end to his career after the problems that have plagued him since November 2020 when he played his last game.
That came at the baseline for Wales against Georgia at Llanelli, Davies explaining that he had no choice but to withdraw due to welfare concerns.
Davies says he gave absolutely everything he could to come back, but in the end had to reluctantly admit defeat. However, putting so much effort into a potential comeback and then finding out he just couldn’t do it has allowed her to accept his decision.
Since then, the rugby world has recovered, and Davies revealed that he received the best wishes and help from a host of former players and current stars.
“Obviously it’s heartbreaking, but I think the right decision has been made,” he said in an interview with the Scarlet’s YouTube channel.
Davies gave a stark account of what had happened in the build-up to the decision to announce his retirement earlier in the month.
“The first six months was pretty much just a migraine the whole time,” he began. “I was going in because the specialists said it was important to keep busy, to keep training. But at first I was just doing 10-minute laps on a bike and I had to get off because I felt dizzy, bad, my head would be throbbing.
“I was driving home just worried if I was going to make it home because my head was on the shop floor. My neck hurt, my vision wasn’t working, symptoms you can get through a concussion. He probably had many.
“I was just trying to build a tolerance for riding a bike, once you did that you built a tolerance for running, then once you did that I was trying to build a tolerance for just passing and catching. It wasn’t like any of it was easy, I had to retrain myself to do it.
“Eventually I got to a place where I was training in a capacity that felt like I was getting excited, still taking breaks, feeling good. My skill set was still there, but then it went into contact, which just wasn’t working. , little glancing blows to the head, I had symptoms right away and felt really vulnerable.
“In the end, I knew this wasn’t going to work. Those first six months were constant. Sometimes I felt like my head was going to explode.”
“I got to a good place around November, but I took a bit of a hit in training. I went through the same symptoms again, the same cycle, but in a condensed period. It was really scary, it showed my vulnerability again.
“But I’m so glad I did everything I could, I went through it. I could have quit a long time ago, but I went to the nth degree to make sure the decision was the right one.”
“That will help me move forward, I’ll be able to look back at the decision and say ‘Yeah, you gave it your all, unfortunately you couldn’t do it.’ But at least I know.”
Davies, 31, had a terrific career, winning 11 caps for Wales and shining brightly for the Scarlets, whom he helped win the PRO12 title in 2017. He won his Wales’ first international match against Italy in 2018 and delivered successive man-of-the-match performances on the tour of Argentina that year. He then went on to be selected in the Wales World Cup squad for Japan in 2019.
A former Welsh Sevens captain, he participated in the Commonwealth Games and was part of the Team GB squad that won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many have contacted Davies to offer their condolences, but also to congratulate him on his career.
The first players he spoke to were his former team-mates, before a Welsh derby clash with Cardiff.
“I’d like to think that’s why they put on a good performance,” he smiles. “It was tough, I was nervous, I had some words I wanted to say. They brought up a couple of stories off the pitch, those were what rugby meant to me. Then the staff showed a video of me playing. It was perfect, I couldn’t have expected more. It was a good farewell.”
Then the messages of support began to arrive.
“It’s been humbling to be honest,” he continues. “Many players I played with contacted me and expressed their condolences. They told me stories from the past that were good to remember. The current players obviously said goodbye.”
“People who have been through something similar have also reached out. They also had to retire early, specifically for a concussion, and they’ve been a great help. I hope they can help me move forward.”
He acknowledges having had to leave: “It’s horrible, the only thing I’ve known is playing rugby. It’s my passion, but having gone through what I’ve been through, it’s the only decision I could make, having talked to the specialists, there was really no other option. .
“The last 18 months have been tough. To think I could do it again is pretty unthinkable, to have those close to me go through that again. I don’t think I can do it.”
Davies says he “can only look back fondly” on how his career went.
As for the next step, he says, “I’ve been a bit bored, that’s my character. But I’ll probably get used to it maybe in the next month or so and I’ll see what’s next.”